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Gilbert & George

Lifespans: 1942 - 1943

Related: bodily fluids in art - contemporary art - scatology - British art - performance art - perversion in modern art

Proudly undermining [bodily fluids] taboos, Gilbert & George created giant, garish photographs of the most reviled bodily fluids. Their Naked Shit Pictures (1995) consisted of the two artists, naked, superimposed amongst hand-coloured images of giant turds. For their Fundamental Pictures (1996) and New Testamental Pictures (1997) exhibitions, they used microscopes to photograph the individual cells and particles of their bodily fluids, the resulting images being surprisingly appealing abstract patterns resembling mosaic fractals. So enchanting are these alchemical images that the only indication of their baser origins comes from their titles, the most comprehensive being Spunk Blood Piss Shit Spit (1996). Gilbert & George's Spunkland (1997) is both a reference to the collage Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different So Appealing? and an homage to Marcel Duchamp's literally seminal Paysage Fautif (1946), a small sheet of card stained with semen. --Matthew Hunt [Aug 2004]


Gilbert Proesch (born in Italy September 11, 1943) and George Passmore (born in England January 8, 1942), better known as Gilbert & George, are artists. They have worked almost exclusively as a pair.

Gilbert was born in St. Martin in Thurn /Dolomites in South Tyrol/Italy, and studied art at the Wolkenstein School of Art and Hallein School of Art, Austria and the Akademie der Kunst, Munich before moving to England. George was born in Plymouth in the United Kingdom, and first studied art at the Dartington Hall College of Art and the Oxford School of Art.

The two then studied sculpture at St Martins School of Art, now Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, where they first met. The two claim they came together because George was the only person who could understand Gilbert's rather poor English.

They were initially known as performance artists. While still students they made The Singing Sculpture (1970), for which they covered themselves in gold metallic paint, stood on a table, and mimed to a recording of Flanagan and Allen's song "Underneath the Arches", sometimes for hours at a time.

A number of works from the early 1970s consisted of the two of them getting drunk, usually on gin. Smashed (1973) was a set of photographs documenting a drunken evening, while Gordon's Makes Us Drunk is a film of the pair drinking Gordon's gin, occasionally saying "Gordon's makes us very drunk" and listening to classical music. This work, in common with many others by Gilbert and George, is executed in a completely deadpan way.

The matching business suits which they wore for these performances became a sort of uniform for them, and they rarely appear in public unless wearing them. It is also virtually unheard of for one of the pair to be seen without the other. They refuse to disassociate their performances from their everyday lives, insisting that everything they do is art. The pair regard themselves as "living sculptures".

The pair are perhaps best known for their large scale photo-montages, such as Cosmological Pictures (1993), frequently tinted in extremely bright colours, backlit, and overlaid with black grids so as to resemble stained glass windows. Gilbert & George themselves often feature in these works, along with flowers and youths, their friends, and echoes of Christian symbolism. Some series of such pictures have attracted media attention through including potentially shocking imagery, including nudity, depictions of sexual acts, and bodily fluids, such as faeces, urine and semen.

It is widely assumed that Gilbert & George are gay lovers, although they always dismiss questions about this. For many years they have been residents of Spitalfields, East London.

They won the Turner Prize in 1986, and represented the UK at the 2005 Venice Biennale. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_and_George [Jun 2005]

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